The Film Some Kind of Heaven is a Travesty on Life in The Villages
February 9, 2021
The Villages has become a symbol of everything the bi-coastal liberal elites hate most about America. It is a nostalgic small-town-like American community filled with old middle class white people from flyover country who vote solidly Republican and enjoy participating in hokey activities. Worse, it has become a mecca for national and state Republican politicians running for office who make pilgrimages in search of a friendly audience far-removed from big-city BLM protestors and Antifa rioters. Liberals couldn't find a more contemptible spectacle to look down their noses at.
The last systematic attack on The Villages from the liberal intellectual establishment came in a critical book by Andrew D. Blechman called Leisureville (2008). It caused quite a sensation, pandering as it did so shrewdly to the public's prurience by recycling a 2009 New York Post article falsely claiming that "wild retirees" sex was causing a major STD outbreak in The Villages. Ever since, the topic of promiscuous geriatric sex keeps coming up wherever folks talk about The Villages and retirement communities in general.
The latest foray against The Villages was made by Lance Oppenheim, a wet-behind-the-ears Harvard graduate, in his debut feature mockumentary movie, Some Kind of Heaven. Like many Ivy Leaguers, Lance Oppenheim comes from a privileged elite background, having graduated from a pricey Florida prep school. His father Roy, a Princeton graduate, founded Oppenheim Law and is one of Florida's top real estate and foreclosure attorneys. Roy is also on the Executive Committee of the Broward Democratic Party and the past President and founder of the Weston Democratic Club. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And Harvard is a place where Democratic family values are reinforced and cultivated.
While Lance Oppenheim disingenuously denies it in an interview with Youtubers Jerry and Linda, it's hard for me to believe that he didn't come to The Villages with a hidden agenda to show that the so-called "Disney World for the Retirees" is not really a utopia, but an exotic dystopia. And indeed, prominent liberal reviewers of the movie have already taken advantage of it as a vehicle to bash The Villages.
The four people profiled in the movie are all grappling with major issues. Not even one of them is living happily in The Villages as is promised in the community's print and video marketing bumf that has attracted so many retired people in search of the good life in sunny Florida. By the way,this material didn't go unnoticed by the director who copied much of it in the film for ironic effect.
The stars of the movie are staged in the film in accordance with the traditional style of a "reality show." Barbara who came to The Villages with her husband is a lonely widow seeking companionship. It touched my heartstrings to see her dancing all by herself off to the side at the nightly line dancing festivities at the Spanish Springs Town Square, although I was pleased to see that she had a much better time with the Margarita Man at the Parrott Head party. Dennis, the most atypical, is an 81-year-old homeless man who lives in his blue van stalking a rich woman to seduce and live off. The scene of him taking a naked shower in the evening next to one of the pools must be off putting for many Villagers who worry they might encounter him in the daytime. Anne is a nice woman forced to struggle with her husband Reggie's odd behavior resulting from his substance abuse and strokes.
While the characters chosen are authentic and have interesting stories, they are in no way representative of The Villages, where most of the people obviously live a fairly normal life, like everywhere else, but with the added benefit of access to The Villages many amenities like golf courses, swimming pools, tennis and pickleball courts, dancing and entertainment, and more clubs than you can imagine, including synchronized swimming as portrayed on the cover of the movie's DVD case. But all this certainly makes a colorful backdrop for the film's stories.
What do you think the liberal reaction would be if I were to make a similar documentary about Harvard, a revered institution as pervasively Democrat as The Villages is Republican, and I picked out four misfit students to follow? Say I managed to find: a poor student driven to attempt suicide by his inability to keep up financially with the lavish lifestyles of his affluent, privileged prep-school classmates; a coed who was raped crossing the campus at night; an athlete who needs to keep his grades up to stay in school and is suspended for cheating; and an oriental student suffering a nervous breakdown after cracking under the heavy pressure of the workload and family expectations. No one can deny that such people exist on the campus, but would they be any less representative of Harvard than the four people chosen by the director were for The Villages?
In the unlikely event, I could get the New York Times and executive producer Darren Aronofsky to support me in my filmmaking project, and, of course, with George Soros's nephew Jeffrey thrown in as my assistant for good measure, I could produce a movie with beautiful shots of the Johnston Gate opening to the verdant Harvard Yard and zooming in on the stern statue of John Harvard at the end, the much photographed statue of the three lies. This would be just like the way Oppenheim spotlights The Villages' enormous sign and the statue of Harold Schwartz in the middle of a fountain containing The Villages' founder's ashes. I could also have cutaways of crews rowing through the early morning mist on the Charles River to parallel the Dragon Boat racing scene on Lake Sumter. Granted it would be hard to find something as offbeat as The Villages precision golf cart team at Harvard, but I'm sure there must be something in the secret initiation ceremonies of one of the final clubs like The Porcellian if I could only sneak in a hidden camera.
The trick would be to put in just enough panoramic pictures of the idyllic Harvard campus and comely students participating in bizarre rituals and parties to contrast with my dark stories of the miserable lives lived by my four handpicked Harvard students. The subliminal suggestion would be the same as for Some Kind of Heaven, namely that, appearances to the contrary, Harvard was also Some Kind of Hell. Doing this would be just as big of a disservice to Harvard as the director did to The Villages.
However, I doubt that the movie will stop many people from flocking to The Villages. As P.T. Barnum said, "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right." And I must admit that, in spite of all I've said, the film is entertaining, even if it's not an accurate portrayal of life in The Villages.
This article explores and updates themes from Florida Dreams: All About the Amazing Rise of the Sunshine Mega-State (Amazon, 2019).
Florida Dreams is available from Amazon.com.